When you visit a new city, you might only have enough time to see the ”important” sights. However, getting away from the bustling city center and crowded museums and discover something new can be quite rewarding. During my last few visits to the eternal city, I have tried to stray from the main sites and enjoyed places like the ancient cobblestones along the Appian way and the garden of 1000 fountains.
Here are my best suggestions if you want to go off the beaten paths and discover the unusual, mysterious and fascinating places most tourist might not know about.
THE APPIAN WAY
This is one of the earliest and most strategically important roads since it’s construction in 312 B.C. After the fall of the western Roman empire the way fell out of use and was later replaced with a new Appian way running parallel to the old one. Nowadays, you can rent bikes during the summer and ride along the mostly deserted way. It’s a day well spent, trust me
THE CRYPT OF THE CAPPUCCINI
If you don’t scare to easily, The Crypt of the Cappuccini in Via Venteno is an experience you’re not likely to forget. Next to Our Lady of the Conception Church there is a visible crypt, decorated with the bones of more than four thousand monks. The crypt is made of several chapels crossed by a corridor that houses mummified corpses of monks dressed with their habits. It’s a path filled with decorations made up by bones that shape roses, stars, garlands and chandeliers.
LA CASINA DELLE CIVETTE
Surely an incomparable sample of Art Deco, this stained glass museum inside of Mussolinis old residence, Villa Torlonia is well worth a visit. See more pictures from my visit here.
THE ROMAN CASTLES
Don’t let the name deceive you! They are not JUST ancient brick castles on the top of foggy highlands. The Roman castles are 13 well-known towns located on the Alban hills. Frequently visited by the Romans during the summer months, these towns are all gems but the one you shouldn’t miss is Frascati, dominated by the sixteenth-century Villa Aldobrandini. Beyond the villas, the ancient ruins and the breath-taking landscapes, the Roman Castles are mostly well-known for cookery and wine produced in these areas. The peculiarity of these places is the “fraschette”, typical taverns mostly made from old cellars, where you can taste reasonably cheap wine, olives, cheese, porchetta and typical Roman dishes. Ariccia is definitively well-known for its fraschette. The roads and the small squares are crowded with outdoor tables in summer. But also other towns are worthy: Monte Porzio Catone, Montecompatri, Rocca Priora, Colonna, Rocca di Papa, Marino, Albano Laziale and Genzano… you are spoilt for choice!
Villa D’este is a UNESCO world heritage site in Tivoli, about an hour outside of Rome. My favorite part of this villa (and the reason I visited in the first place) is the garden and it’s countless fountains.
Another place I want to visit for it’s gardens. This 16th century castle remains a private residence of the Ruspoli family but is open for visits to the public. It also contains a chapel on the ground floor dedicated to Sister Giacinta, a Ruspoli family member who was canonized a saint by Pope Pius VII in 1807.
THE PARK OF MONSTERS
This one, along with Castello Ruspoli are still on my bucket list but I felt they needed mentioning. This forest, more known as Park of the monsters (Parco dei mostri, in Italian) is in Bomarzo, Northers Lazio. The park, created in the 16th century, was not intended to please, but to astonish, and it’s symbolism is not always easy to decipher. The many monstrous statues are said to be unconnected and are placed randomly around the area. Sol per sfogare il Core (just to vent the heart) as one inscription on the obelisk says.
Now, this is Italy we’re talking about. So if it seems long to drive one or two hours away from Rome to see one of these places remember that the side of the roads will be filled with ’Trattorie’, smaller family run Italian restaurants where usually the mother/grandmother will be cooking and the sons and daughters wait the tables. The food in these places alone will be worth the trip.
Which one would you like to visit?
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